1911 – 2011From 1911 to 2011, from approximately twenty members to over six hundred members, from Kennedy Street to South Parkway West, from a wood-framed building to a Renaissance-styled structure and from the Martin Memorial Temple Colored Methodist Episcopal Church to Martin Memorial Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the history of Martin Memorial Temple is steeped in the culture of the C. M.E. Church, the local community and its families.
1911 – 1920In 1911 a small band of men, women and children joined with Rev. Samuel Adams to organize Martin Memorial Temple, named in honor of Rev. and Mrs. Willis Martin, who were the parents of Mrs. Cora Winchester and the Bishop J. C. Martin. The first location was a small wooden building at 1312 Kennedy Street. Charter members were Sallie Bell, Katie Blocker, Albert and Sallie Bobo, Ben Brown, J. C. and Easter Carr, Martha Harp, Bessie Shinn Jackson, Titus Jackson, W. M. and Fannie Jones, Luella Kelly, Mattie Land, Selma Miles, Emma Mitchell, Columbus and Ada Moore, Jack and Sarah Paschall, Lizzie Price, and Mattie Bobo Stewart.
Because the membership was so small, the pastor visited once a month, but the few members met every Sunday and held services, even if only two members were present. During the early days, Martha Bernard, Joseph Crawford, A. W. Goodloe, Lee Goodloe, Rachel Johnson, Emma Martin, Annie Porter, and Geraldine Sims joined the initial group.
The first 10 years represents a time when members were organized into various auxiliaries. The Sunday School was organized in 1911 and the first superintendent was Brother Ben Brown. The Trustee Board, Board of Stewards and Stewardess Board were organized in 1915. Some of the names of these early leaders are recognizable on the church membership roll today, such as the descendents of Ernest Jones Martha Harp, B. W. Sims, Martha Bernard, and A. W. and Lee Goodloe.
Rev. Samuel Adams served as minister from 1911 to 1912. A succession of ministers served Martin Memorial Temple during the first 10 years: Rev. C. J. Smith, 1913; Rev. B. J. Smith, 1914; Rev. B. F. Delaney, 1915; Rev. C. A. Hale, 1916; Rev. J. A. Alcorn, 1917; Rev. J. H. Bell, 1918; Rev. E. D. McCray, 1919; and Rev. J. H. Walls, 1920.
From Kennedy Street to South Parkway West
1921 – 1930The succession of pastors during the first ten years resulted in the increase of the church membership, spiritual fellowship and financial security. The fellowship was so strong that it led to the organization of the White Rose Club. Lina Armstrong was elected as its first president. In 1922, following the leadership of J. C. Martin, who was now Bishop of the First Episcopal District and Rev. J. A. Alcorn, who was serving a second term as pastor, the members decided to build a new church building. The Church Debt Funding Board was organized in 1922 with B. W. Sims, Sr. serving as its first president. Its purpose was to raise money for the needs of the church.
The lot at the corner of South Parkway West and Kansas was purchased for $3,500. Construction began in 1926 and was completed in 1927. Martin Temple became one of the five churches with the same architectural design that was financed and built by Bishop Martin. Ephram Porter, with his mule-drawn dray wagon, moved the furnishings into the new church. Current member, Mrs. Juanita Bedford, made the trek from Kennedy Street to South Parkway.
Under the pastoralships of Rev. B. F. Harris (1923), Rev. S. S. Washington (1924), Rev. H. Winrow (1925), Rev. C. H. Daniel (1926), and Rev. W. A. Gladden (1927-28), the church on Parkway continued to grow. Several changes were made to improve the program of the church. The Usher Board was formed in 1926. Rev. I. H. Jones became pastor in 1929 and introduced the singing of anthems into the worship services. The first anthem sung by the choir was, “Wake the Song”.
Growth in Christian Discipleship
1931 – 1940Rev. W. A. Johnson ushered in the 1930’s, serving as pastor from 1931 until 1935. He organized the Home department as a part of the Sunday School. The pastors from 1935 through 1940 worked continuously to help the church become more knowledgeable about the disciplines of Methodism. Pastors serving during this era were Rev. E. E. Dunnigan (1936), Rev. C. W. Allen (1937), Rev. J. L Griffin (1938 – 40). Rev. Allen instituted a very structured and formal method of working which was designed to enhance the spirituality of the services.
Numerous improvements were made to the church throughout the early years. In 1938, tragedy struck! The church was heavily damaged by fire. Services had to be held under a tent on the church lawn. Immediately, Bishop J. Arthur Hamlett and Rev. Allen began the repair of the church. Later, in 1938, with the assignment of Rev. J. L. Griffin who served until 1940, the members were able to re-enter the church and to proceed with renewed determination.
1941- 1950In 1941 Rev. E. l. Strong became pastor and embarked on a program of beautifying the church. Stained glass windows were installed in the two upper levels, the parsonage was built, and the mortgage on the church property was burned. The church also received its first organ, a gift from Mrs. Lillian Martin, the widow of Bishop J. C. Martin. Rev. Strong served faithfully until 1947.
In 1948 Rev. S. D. Lewers, a very congenial and highly spiritual leader became the pastor. He worked untiringly to encourage more youth to commit their lives to Christ. A great revival services was held to accomplish this goal and the church membership was significantly increased.
This decade ended with Rev. Lewers as pastor. He served until 1950.
A Decade of Progress
1951 – 1960Described as an intelligent and devoted leader. Martin Temple was Rev. Robinson’s first assignment in the ministry. With the support of his devoted wife, the Robinsons formed a devout ministerial team. Rev. Robinson gave dedicated service to the sick and shut-in members. Rev. Robinson served as pastor from 1951 until 1953. During the next eight years, 1953 – 1961, Martin Temple reached a higher plateau of service and progress under the pastorate of Rev. L. A. Story. Rev. Story proposed the idea of the construction of an educational facility and began a building fund program.
Rev. and Mrs. Story greatly improved the spiritual lives of many members and were greatly loved by the congregation. The Pastor Pride and the L. A. Story Club were organized in his honor. Rev. Story was also instrumental in the organization of the Class Leader Council and instituted the All Church Nigh and the Annual Sunday School Night. The members were very receptive to the Sunday School Night and many in the community attended.
Finally, the Educational Building
1961 – 1970Assigned as pastor in 1963, Rev. N. T. Walker continued the building fund program and finalized the design and proportions of the educational building. With the assignment of Rev. Paul Fowlkes, the building project received full support. With his leadership, the trustees and the official board gave support to William R. Bradford and Gertrude Walker to proceed in getting a contract for the construction. Finally in 1967, Rev. Fowlkes built the educational building that Rev. Story had proposed and Rev. Walker designed. The building was named the L. A. Story Educational Building to honor its originator. In the L. A. Story Educational Building, the auditorium, the upper hall, and the lower hall were named to honor Rev. Paul Fowlkes, the pastor at the time of completion, Marie Bradford, superintendent of the Children’s Department and Gertrude Walker, Director of the Board of Christian Education, respectively.
During the 15 years of his pastorship, Rev. Fowlkes emphasized cleanliness and maintenance of the church property and beauty in the worship service. Many improvements were made to the church. The lot adjoining the church property was purchased and developed as a parking lot, the front entrance steps were repaired and support rails were added. A lighted marquee was installed and the sanctuary was completely refurbished. Auditorium seats were placed in the balcony. A mural on the choir wall, which had been commissioned by the Pastor Pride Club, was replaced by an oil painting of the Lord’s Supper. The painting was done by member, Don E. Goodloe, and paid for by the Samuel Goodloe, Sr. Family.
Prayer and Dedication
1971 -1980Rev. Fowlkes was the longest serving pastor in the 100-year history of Martin Memorial Temple. Many of Rev. Fowlkes accomplishments are enumerated in the previous decade. However, one highlight was not mentioned. Rev. Fowlkes married a lifelong member of Martin Temple, Alice Pryor Floyd, during his service. Rev. J. D. Atwater followed him in 1978. Rev. Atwater added greatly to prayer worship service. The J. D. Atwater Guild was organized to pay tribute to him. Some of the accomplishments made during Rev. Atwater’s pastorship were the purchase of a bus and the renaming of the children’s choir to the Charlotte B. Polk Choir. Failing health and finally death in 1980-ended Rev. Atwater’s term at Martin Temple. His wife, Thelda, remained a member of Martin Temple and visited from Chicago during the centennial year.
Look Up and Move Forward
1981 – 1990Rev. Rufus Fleming, who served a short term as interim pastor and returned in 1981 for a second term, succeeded Rev. Atwater. Rev. Fleming worked to improve the structure and formality of the worship service. He also organized the midday prayer service under the leadership of Rev. Ophelia Spearman.
Rev. P. Gonya Hentrel, a former Presiding Elder, began his service at Martin Temple in 1981. Rev. Hentrel worked diligently to increase the attendance in all programs of the church. The complete communion ritual was instituted during his administration. He also emphasized the importance of the Steward and the Stewardess Boards. During his tenure six new stewards and twenty new stewardesses were confirmed.
Rev. Hentrel was instrumental in the allocation of a $5,000 gift by Mrs. John J. Perry in memory of her husband, toward the purchase of a $12,000 baby grand piano. He succeeded in getting monetary donations for the consecration of the two lecterns and the tithe box. With the approval of the official board, he supported the efforts of Ms. Gertrude Walker in the successful operation of the MIFA food program. Looking toward the future development of the church, he initiated the purchase of a lot, which now adjoins the church property of the east. In early 1988, Rev. Hentrel challenged the congregation to “Look up and move forward”. This charge both reinforced and gave meaning to the seventy-fifth anniversary celebration: “A Firm Foundation—75 years of Christian Unity”. The very successful 75th Anniversary celebration brought together all facets of the congregation to complete a seemingly insurmountable task, financing these activities with $30,000.
One year after the anniversary, Rev. Parker H. Joyner, Jr. was assigned as pastor of Martin Temple. Under the guiding principle of “Putting God First in All We Do”, Rev. Joyner brought with him a whirlwind of activities and spiritual rejuvenation, including establishing a Children’s Meditation period during Sunday morning services and the Voices of Martin Temple, a youth and young adult choir. An ecumenical worship exchange was established with Evergreen Presbyterian Church and worshippers traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio.
1991 – 2000In 1990 Martin Temple was assigned a young, dynamic preacher from Dallas, Texas, John Marshall Gilmore. With his dynamic preaching and inspirational teaching, Rev. Gilmore’s efforts brought a large influx of new members to the church. He reorganized the board of Trustees and the Board of Stewards through workshops and training sessions. He also initiated the purchase of updated office equipment and hired an Administrative Secretary. A variety of ministries and activities were introduced during his tenure, including African Heritage Study; MIFA Food Program; Boy Scouts; Outreach Ministry, which included Salvation Army Outreach, community canvassing and summer camp; Children’s Church; Ash Wednesday and Lenten Services; Sassy Group; a radio broadcast and tape ministry; Caretaker Support Group and a New Member Orientation Class. For the first time since 1941, the church published a newsletter called “The Martin Temple Herald”. The Travel Group was organized and church members traveled to worship with other C.M.E. churches in Dallas, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia. In conjunction with St. Andrew A.M.E. Church and New Allen A.M.E. church, Martin Temple participated in the Tri-Master Grant Program, and after school tutorial program.
At the 1994 West Tennessee Annual Conference, Rev. Charles L. Johnson, a pastor and Presiding Elder from Holly Springs, Mississippi, became pastor of Martin Temple. Well-known as a builder and a renovator of churches, Rev. Johnson brought with him, not only a wife and two sons, but also a strong Biblical ministry and a resonant baritone singing voice. After instituting a financial giving plan that rendered the church financially sound, he began a vigorous renovation program for the entire church and Christian Center.
The congregation was spiritually revitalized under Rev. Johnson’s ministry. There were Bible-centered, thought-provoking sermons, weekly Bible study sessions, monthly Sunday School department study groups and training workshops; The children’s choir was re-energized, performing both locally and within the district.
The New Millennium
2001 – 2010Rev. John Devine Pasley, Jr. was assigned to Martin Temple in 2000 and served until 2002. He was a native of Covington, Tennessee and a former Chaplain in the United States Air Force Reserve. His visionary theme for the church was, “A Day of New Beginnings”. During his tenure he led many successful ministries, such as the Joy Outreach Ministry and T. V. Commercial Ministry. The Children’s Ministry became an important part of the morning service, which was held every 2nd and 4th Sunday.
The church celebrated its 90th Anniversary during Rev. Pasley’s tenure. This unique celebration included the lighting of unity candles, “A Night at the Oscars” and Heritage Day. For the first time in church history, the son of a first family was christened at Martin Temple.
Rev. Louis T. Purham served as pastor from 2003 until 2007. Coming to Martin Temple from Mt. Pisgah C. M. E. Church, Martin Temple was his last assignment before his retirement. A native of Covington, Tennessee, he studied at Lane College and later served as its Chaplain and as a professor. He also served as a Presiding Elder.
Rev. Purham’s leadership at Martin Temple embodies a part of his life’s legacy. A great humanitarian, his very presence spoke volumes of his love for people—his compassionate spirit was a beacon that brought light to those in need—his commitment to living life, carved a path of hope for those in the throes of hopelessness– and his inclusive spirit embodied a lifeline for the communities’ people.
In 2010 Rev. Willie B. Boyd, Jr. was named pastor of Martin Temple. In 2003, Bishop William H. Graves admitted Rev. Boyd on trial in the West Tennessee Annual Conference. After being admitted on trial, Rev. Boyd served as Youth Pastor of his home church, Mt. Pisgah C. M. E. Church in Memphis. After serving for seven years at Morris Chapel C. M. E. Church in Somerville, Tennessee Rev. Boyd was assigned to Martin Temple.